Barnas keeps track of UB’s space

Dave Barnas, physical space administrator, Campus Planning, keeps track of every inch of the university’s 12 million gross square feet of space. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published August 4, 2021

“What all of that data represents is really cool stuff. It represents a living university. ”
David Barnas, senior physical space administrator
Campus Planning

David Barnas has been called the Space Guru, the Space Guy, even the Space Cadet.

“I am partial to Minister of Space,” Barnas deadpans.

As senior physical space administrator in Campus Planning, Barnas is UB’s keeper of record for every nook and cranny of the university’s 12 million gross square feet of space.

That means cataloguing — down to the smallest cubicle — how much physical space UB has, where, who’s in it and how it’s used. Barnas can tell you the whereabouts of campus coat closets, rest rooms, elevators, slop sinks and how much space there is in the attics.

“You need to know what you have to start with before you can do any kind of planning,” Barnas explains.

“Whether it’s a consultant or SUNY or the federal government, they’ll ask, ‘What kind of space do you guys have now?’ So, I’m able to provide them that information across several different metrics.”

Barnas, 56, was hired at UB in 2000 and tasked with creating a physical space inventory that is “timely, accurate and trusted.” He keeps a space database of 45,000 records that he meticulously categorized to include a description — such as office, classroom, laboratory — square footage and the names of the individuals assigned to a space at UB. That’s roughly 10,000 people.

In a sense, Barnas says, it’s mundane data.

“Except what all of that data represents is really cool stuff,” he says. “It represents a living university.”

Dave Barnas catalogues how much physical space UB has, where it is, who’s in it and how it’s used. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

While Barnas likes the analytical part of his job, he also enjoys getting out of his own 126-square-foot office in the Beane Center to see for himself all the interesting things happening throughout university spaces.

“I think people don’t have a sense of how big UB really is,” he says.

It’s so big Barnas needed help.

His colleague, Katie Moltrup, joined the team in 2005 to help maintain the data and floor plans for UB’s 233 buildings sprawled across the North, South and Downtown campuses.

Each fall, Barnas conducts a space inventory survey to track the changes to UB spaces over the course of the year. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

And each fall for the past 15 years, Barnas has conducted a space inventory survey to track the changes to UB spaces over the course of the year.

Otherwise, he relies on designated individuals in UB’s various departments and units to keep him informed so he can keep the database updated. After each building rehab, Barnas and Moltrup conduct their own field surveys to re-measure the spaces and adjust the floor plans accordingly.

“There probably are very few institutions tracking people to space because that changes constantly during the course of a year,” Barnas says. “You wouldn’t think it did, but it does.”

Barnas, who graduated from UB in 1988 with a master’s degree in geography, lives in the City of Tonawanda with his wife, Dawn, and their dog, Coconut. He is active in his parish, plays chess, enjoys tai chi and paints orthodox religious icons, several of which adorn the walls of his office.

Of course, Barnas is always happy to talk space at UB.

“I have a lot of passion for this,” he says. “I don’t know why, other than if you don’t have passion for what you do it becomes really boring.”

Your Colleagues highlights employees who have an interesting story to tell, hobby to share and those who work behind the scenes to make UB go every day. Know someone who would make an interesting profile? Forward suggestions to Jay Rey.


David Barnas is a great guy and UB is lucky to have him!

Don L. Erb